Toulouse stay top after hard-fought win over Dax
January 10, 2009
Toulouse fullback Maxime Medard looks to make ground in atrocious conditions at the Stade Maurice Boyau © Getty Images
Brive 19 - 9 Toulon Montpellier 3 - 30 Clermont Auvergne Castres 9 - 10 Biarritz Mont-de-Marsan 6 - 13 Stade Français Montauban 15 - 13 Bayonne Perpignan 40 - 14 Bourgoin-Jallieu Dax 9 - 25 Toulouse
Toulouse cemented their position at the summit of the Top 14 lead with a 25-9 win over Dax in torrential conditions at the Stade Maurice Boyau on Friday night.
The victory also saw them set a new Top 14 record of 11 consecutive victories - eclipsing Clermont Auvergne's mark from last season.
A breakaway try from centre Maleli Kunavore and 20 points from the boots of Jean-Batiste Elissalde, Frederic Michalak and Florian Fritz were enough to see the giants through.
Their performance was not commanding though, as the Dax pack asked questions of their more illustrious counterparts throughout. With the score finely balanced at 6-6 at half-time there could have been a few thoughts of an upset as the ferocity of the Dax tight-five reaped rewards.
In the end though, the precision of the kicking from Michalak and Elissalde and the killer instinct of Kunavore proved too much - the Fijian racing to the line as the Dax players stood waiting for the referee's whistle after an apparent knock-on from Fabien Pelous.
Dax failed to fashion any genuine opportunities through their backline and Toulouse will return home knowing that they have been in a game, and perhaps wondering if the inclement weather had robbed them of an expected bonus-point.
Elsewhere in Round 15 of this season's competition, Stade Francais kept pace with the leaders following a narrow 13-6 victory over Mont-de-Marsan. Lionel Beauxis gave the visitors the lead with a penalty and Brian Liebenberg, playing at fly-half, extended their advantage with a try shortly before the break which was converted by his fullback.
Mont-de-Marsan centre Damien Cler reduced the arrears after the break with two penalties but replacement Juan Martin Hernandez settled the Parisians' nerves with a late penalty.
Perpignan maintained their title challenge with a thumping 40-14 victory at home to Bourgoin. Philip Burger and Gerrie Britz both grabbed a brace of tries and hooker Marius Tincu also touched down as the Catalans powered to a bonus point. Tries from Pascal Peyron and Morgan Parra restored some pride for the visitors who had skipper Julien Frier sent off for abusive language.
Biarritz finally got back to winning ways but they had to hold off a brace comeback on their way to a 10-9 victory over Castres. USA Eagles winger Takudzwa Ngwenya grabbed the visitors' opening try which was converted by Dimitri Yachvilli who later added a penalty. Romain Teulet led the Castres fightback with two penalties to close the gap before half-time and he added a third after the break but that was as close as they got.
Montauban edged out Bayonne 15-13 to keep their play-off hopes alive with fly-half Cedric Rosalen slotting five penalties before half-time. Bayonne rallied with a second half try from Sam Gerber and eight points from the boot of Cedric Garcia but they were unable to overhaul their hosts.
Clermont Auvergne climbed back into the play-off picture with a 30-3 victory over Montpellier. Aurelien Rougerie, Napoleoni Nalaga and Marius Joubert all crossed for Clermont while fly-half Brock James weighed in with three conversions and three penalties.
In the last game of the weekend, fly-half Andy Goode notched 14 points as Brive heaped woe on basement side Toulon with a 19-9 victory. Toulon fly-half Tusi Pisi kicked three penalties to keep his side in the clash until Brive flanker Gerhard Vosloo crossed for a crucial second-half try.
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Women's World Cup, the opening round of the Top 14 and the Rugby Championship